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Boeing Pushes Back 747-8F Rollout by Three Months to Close 747-400F Line

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The Boeing 747-8 Freighter rollout and production launch have been pushed back three months according to those inside the program, as well as customers.

Boeing has decided to complete final assembly and delivery of all remaining 747-400 Freighters in 2008 to completely close the -400F production line to transition the production lines for the -8F and -8I.

Image Courtesy Boeing

According to customers with the remaining 747-400Fs on order, Boeing has informed them that the -400Fs that were expected to be delivered in 2009 will now be available in 2008.

The last passenger -400 was delivered to China Airlines in April of 2005.

In addition to the closure of the -400F line, engineering resources have been diverted away from the 747-8 program to assist with both the 787 and 777F programs. This diversion has been confirmed by sources inside the 747 program and partially accounts for the change in the schedule as well.

Originally scheduled for rollout on November 3, 2008, the first 747-8F has been rescheduled for February 12, 2009. Major assembly is set to begin in February of 2008 with the construction of the outboard wing box assembly.

As a result of the closure of the -400F line, the line number of the first 747-8F has been changed from L/N 1414 to L/N 1420.

Though the commencement of production has been moved by three months, Boeing still intends to deliver its first -8F in October 2009 to Cargolux, according to internal schedules. The new plan allocates more time to engineering and manufacturing and less time towards flight test.

Boeing did not return several calls or e-mails seeking comment.

First flight of the 747-8F was originally planned for December of 2008, one to two months following factory completion of the first aircraft. With this one- to two-month time frame between factory completion and first flight, the flight test program needs to be completed in eight months if first flight is pushed to March of 2009. With entry into service unchanged, the flight test program will be shortened by three months.

As recently as October 23, Boeing has maintained that the, "747-8 Freighter remains on schedule to deliver in late 2009," according to a statement published by aviation analyst Scott Hamilton.

The decision to allocate more time to engineering and manufacturing and less time to flight test is similar to the September 5th 787 program update which compressed the 787's flight test schedule to as little as five months. Boeing announced the Dreamliner's first flight would be moved to the mid-November to mid-December time frame while maintaining the May 2008 entry into service with All Nippon Airways.

Boeing announced a six month delay in certification and delivery of the 787 on October 10th.

The 747-8, a variant of the 747 program, is distinctly different to the 787 in that it is not an entirely new aircraft. Variants do not typically require the same amount of flight testing to achieve airworthiness certification.

To date, a total of 73 747-8Fs have been ordered by eight customers.

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